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Cardinal Tauran, Muslim scholars discuss hopes for Vatican-Muslim talks

Catholic World News - November 04, 2008

In interviews with Vatican Radio and La Croix, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, offered a preview of the Vatican-Muslim talks that are taking place in Rome from November 4 to 6. Participants will explain their Catholic and Muslim beliefs without engaging in formal theological dialogue. The 3-day talks involve 29 representatives of each side, who will discuss love of God and love of neighbor as the basis for human dignity. On Wednesday the participants will meet with the Holy Father in a private audience, followed by a public forum at the Gregorian University.

‘At the moment,’ says Cardinal Tauran, ‘theological dialogue has not really begun. We will see with the Forum, when we will speak of the love of God, how far we can go together. What is important is to know the theological thinking of the other.’ Participants in the talks will also discuss mutual respect for the religious liberty. ‘The problem,’ Cardinal Tauran comments, ‘is that these initiatives of dialogue seem very hit-and-miss compared to the daily stories of anti-Christian violence in several countries. The question is how do we get these real openings we have with the elite to filter down to the masses.’ Nonetheless, a greater respect for religious liberty is not a condition for the discussion. ‘The principle of reciprocity is not a prerequisite for dialogue,’ says Cardinal Tauran. ‘This is not the logic of Do ut des [I give in order that you may give]. That would be anti-Christian.’

Members of the Muslim delegation expressed hope that the talks would yield a ‘crisis-management plan’ that could be put into action if events offensive to Muslims occurred again. ‘We should develop a crisis reaction mechanism so if there is another cartoon crisis, we could get together and make a joint statement,’ said Turkish scholar Ibrahim Kalin.

Responding to the pontiff’s Regensburg address, Tariq Ramadan, another Muslim participant, said that Islam as well as Christianity had engaged questions of faith and reason. He added:

‘Our task will be to assume our respective and shared responsibilities, and to commit ourselves to working for a more just world, in full respect of beliefs and liberties. It is essential, then, to speak of freedom of conscience, of places of worship, of the ‘argument of reciprocity’; all questions are possible in an atmosphere of mutual confidence and respect. Still, it is essential that each of us sit down at the table with the humility that consists of not assuming that we alone possess the truth; with the respect that requires that we listen to our neighbours and recognise their differences; and, finally, the coherence that summons each of us to maintain a critical outlook in accepting the contradictions that may exist between the message and the practice of believers. These are the essential elements to be respected if we are to succeed.’

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